A new dawn at African Development Bank as Adesina takes over as President

Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina officially resumes duty as the new President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) today, September 1, 2015, taking over from former President Donald Kaberuka. Adesina, who was the former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, will become the first Nigerian to hold this position.

Adesina who was a former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria brings his high level of experience and expertise to head the bank. He believes agriculture can be a major tool in reducing the rate of poverty and unemployment and that the sector has remained untapped. 

These are a few key takeaways from Adesina’s vision statement presented during his bid for the Presidency and perhaps a course of action for his tenure as head of the AFDB.

Developing infrastructure

Within Africa, poorly developed infrastructure continues to hinder productivity and quality of life. Hindering productivity by as much as 40 percent, without stronger infrastructure, particularly within the power sector, Africa will continue to lag behind. Adesina outlines a vision for ‘Integrated Smart-Infrastructure’ development in Africa. He notes, “Integrated Smart-Infrastructure is targeted, focused, infrastructure that considers the entire development ecosystem in situating infrastructures to effectively deliver on operational effectiveness, scale and economic impact. Instead of opportunistic or isolated one-off infrastructure investments, the Bank would focus on key development objectives and then pursue targeted integrated infrastructure investments to drive those developmental objectives.”

Growing the private sector

Cultivating Africa’s private sector has always been a fundamental area of focus for the AFDB. The private sector accounts for 70% of all investment within Africa, and Adesina believes this may be the key to addressing core issues such as electricity supply and water, “A more strengthened private sector is critical for Africa’s industrialization. My focus will be on growing the African private sector to help drive industrialization and wealth creation for Africa. I will prioritize the growth of small and medium sized companies, grow middle-sized capitalized companies and support the emergence of African global multinational companies. The Bank will design advisory support services dedicated towards supporting the industrialization of Africa” says Adesina.

Job creation for youth and women

Youth unemployment in Africa is estimated to be over 20 percent. In addition more women than men work in vulnerable, low-paid, or undervalued jobs; in Sub-Saharan Africa the percentages indicate women’s vulnerabilities at 85.5 per cent versus 70.5 per cent  for men. Adesina notes, “to drive inclusive growth and shared prosperity under my leadership, the Bank’s lending operations will be broadened to help tackle the unemployment challenge in Africa. The Bank will mainstream job creation for the youth and women as a major deliverable across its sovereign and non-sovereign lending operations and further strengthen SME’s.”.

Reviving rural economies

About 70% of rural dwellers make up the total percentage of poor people in Africa. Rural areas are behind in the economic growth process in Africa. Adesina’s strategy? “Using agriculture to transform rural economies will create new economic viability zones, providing jobs and higher incomes. Transforming the agriculture sector will have the largest impact on inclusive growth on the continent, given that 70-80% of the labor force is engaged in agriculture, but are locked into poverty with limited access to technologies, finance, markets and infrastructure to unlock their potential.”

Strengthening regional integration

Africa’s infrastructure gap is about $35bn a year and urgently needs to pursue regional integration to help strenghten the economy. Adesina says “We must therefore connect landlocked countries to coastal ports and invest in transnational infrastructure, especially transnational highways, trans-boundary water basins, maritime and air transport systems to better connect countries and cities. This will expand the size of the regional markets and reduce costs of movement of goods, services and people. I will give special attention to the needs of fragile states, especially to develop stronger national and regional public health systems and infrastructure, especially given the recent experience with the Ebola crisis”.

Adesina emphasises that his vision “is to help build a new Africa with prosperous, sustainable and inclusive growth; one that is peaceful, secure and united, regionally integrated and globally competitive.”

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